Owners approve sale of Red Sox to Henry-Werner groupPosted: Wednesday January 16, 2002 8:44 PM
Updated: Thursday January 17, 2002 4:45 AM
PHOENIX (AP) -- Tom Werner knows the most important number in his group's purchase of the Boston Red Sox isn't $660 million, it's 1918 -- the last time the team won the World Series.
"We're really looking forward to Opening Day and to setting about the goal of erasing the Curse of the Bambino," he said after baseball owners voted Wednesday night to approve the purchase, which will separate the Red Sox from the Yawkey name for the first time since 1933.
Acting with a speed seldom seen in the sport, owners voted 29-0, with the New York Yankees abstaining, to OK a controversial deal that was agreed to on Dec. 20.
The new ownership, headed by Florida Marlins owner John Henry, includes Werner, the former owner of the San Diego Padres; Larry Lucchino, the former president of the Padres and Baltimore Orioles; and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. It is likely to take control in late February after the sale closes, which could lead to the ouster of general manager Dan Duquette and other front-office moves.
"We aren't going to get into any personnel decisions tonight," Lucchino said. "We're going to talk about the excitement, anticipation, the challenges of the new Boston Red Sox. So tonight's a day for celebration, gratitude, appreciation, but not that kind of decision making."
While the Red Sox, with tiny Fenway Park, the Green Monster and Pesky's pole, are one of baseball's most storied teams, they have not won a World Series in 83 years as New England's springtime hope has turned to autumn disappointment each season.
"This is great news for Red Sox fans," Hall of Famer Ted Williams said in a statement read by Werner. "I have known Larry Lucchino for many years. He's a great baseball man and a class act, as are John Henry and Tom Werner.
"Today begins a new chapter in Red Sox history and I am certain they will carry on all that was great about Tom Yawkey, who was my dear friend, and all that was great about Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox. I believe they will also do all that they can do to bring a world championship to Boston."
The incoming owners emphasized their love of Red Sox history. Werner also read a statement from Carl Yastrzemski. They have talked about renovating Fenway Park instead of building a new stadium, a decision that will be put off until after the deal closes.
"I've had a long and enjoyable relationship with the Red Sox organization," Yaz said, "and I'm looking forward to continuing it with the new owners."
Because the Red Sox spurned higher offers -- $755 million from New York lawyer Miles Prentice and $750 million from Cablevision Systems Corp. chairman Charles Dolan -- Boston chief executive officer John Harrington and baseball commissioner Bud Selig have been accused of steering the deal to Henry's group, filled with connected baseball veterans.
"I'm not concerned about the way John Harrington handled the sale or his people, or the way major league baseball handled the sale," Selig said.
Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly had been investigating the sale process, saying his role is to ensure that the agreement maximizes the money that goes to charities. The Jean R. Yawkey Trust, run by Harrington, owns a 53 percent controlling stake in the team, which owns Fenway Park and 80 percent of the New England Sports Network.
The original deal with Henry called for $410 million to go to the Yawkey Trust. Under an agreement reached Wednesday with Reilly, an additional $30 million will go to youth, educational and other organizations -- $20 million from the incoming owners and $10 million from the current limited partners.
"We are deeply disappointed by today's events," Charles Dolan said in a statement. "We agree with the previous statement of the attorney general of Massachusetts that the bidding process for the Boston Red Sox was fatally flawed. All of those associated with the process clearly know that to be the case. The events of today neither rectify the process now would they yield the most revenue for the public charities, and we believe that serious questions remain."
The approval set in motion deals for Henry to sell the Marlins to Expos owner Jeffrey Loria for $158 million and for Loria to sell the Expos back to the commissioner's office for $120 million. Neither deal has been completed.
Selig said baseball "will proceed with the consideration" of those sales "in an orderly fashion." He said that before the Red Sox sale closes, Henry must have approval for the sale of the Marlins and must sell his 1 percent stake in the Yankees -- Boston's hated rival.
In addition, Selig said Werner and Lucchino have to sell their shares in the Padres before the Red Sox sale closes.
Harrington, who had argued Henry's group was the most likely to gain quick approval, was not at the meeting.
"This may not seem obvious at the moment, but running this team is one of the greatest jobs in the world," Harrington said in a statement.
"The most important aspect of this approval is that new ownership, who know and love this game, will be in place and in control by Opening Day. Winning teams don't happen by accident, and they don't happen overnight. It's time to let John Henry and his group get moving."
The Red Sox had six owners from 1901-33, most notably Harry Frazee, infamous for selling Base Ruth to the Yankees for money to finance his Broadway musical, "No, No Nanette."
Thomas Yawkey bought the team from J.A. Robert Quinn in 1933 and when Thomas Yawkey died in 1976, his wife took over.
When Jean Yawkey died, she willed all her holdings to her trust, giving Harrington, her longtime adviser, broad power to run the team.
Boston was one strike from winning a World Series against the New York Mets before Bob Stanley's wild pitch and Bill Buckner's infamous error on Mookie Wilson's grounder cost them the game. The Red Sox also lost that Series in seven games.
Under the agreement with Reilly, Harrington will share control of the Yawkey trust with an expanded board that will total nine trustees.
"We will bring in professional management to manage it," Reilly said. "I'm proud today that this sale can go forward."
Harrington said that by reaching the agreement, he would be able to "maximize the proceeds to the Yawkey Foundation and to conclude the sale process so that the Henry-Werner group can be in place by Opening Day."
"I look forward to continuing to carry on Mrs. Yawkey's legacy in my role as trustee and executive director of her foundation for many years to come," Harrington said.
Henry said the agreement to establish a New Boston Red Sox Foundation would continue the Yawkey's long history of community involvement.
"We look forward to forging strong ties within the Boston area and throughout the New England community via this foundation for many years to come," Henry said in a statement.
The agreement was announced shortly after Reilly had sent a letter to Selig, saying the bidding should be reopened and urging owners not to vote on the sale. He had said in the letter that his review of the sales process required further investigation.
"I have a responsibility not only to assure that the charities of the Commonwealth receive as much as possible from the sale of the Red Sox, but also to guarantee that the foundation is prepared to meet its obviously enhanced obligations," Reilly wrote to Selig.
At a subsequent news conference, Reilly said he had "run out of patience. It was important to us to get it done."